When Modernism gets tiring in post war Europe: Design of a French Villa by John Henry architect for a German Client.

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Europe has a wonderful history of artful grace, music, and majestic buildings.  For much of the continent  devastated after WW2 the need for reconstruction at a fast pace was critical to keep people safe and housed.  The industrialization of the building trades was instrumental in making that goal possible.  

The ‘machine age’ was ushered in and no longer were fancy finials, carved gargoyles and elaborate facades, metal work and other hand worked materials possible.


A new architecture was developed and instead of making apologies for its stark and naked appearance, the architects and academia embraced this method and preached it to all universities around the globe.  It was the International Style.  Modern.  And not only did Europe get rebuilt efficiently but the idea was adopted by American architects, especially useful for commercial architecture, as it meant that glass and steel and sleek finishes became more economical and profitable.

No longer were artisans required, there was no fuss, no frou-frou henceforth.


So, a 2,000-year tradition was broken. 


One wonders: “Well if this approach was needed in an emergency situation, why don’t we go back to the beauty of classical architecture again?”

The short answer is: It has always been possible to go back and revisit the wonders of ancient Greece and Rome, the Renaissance, and subsequent revivals for inspiration.  Despite the advent of digital architecture and deconstruction styles, the preponderance of luxury manors and large homes is in historic period styles.  At least in the United States.  

Here is an iconic design by Le Corbusier for a residence built in France.  My generation of architects was 'forbidden' to create anything else other than Modern/International Style buildings:

In Europe, the social mores and artistic direction of post-war economies have been to keep with the Modern.  They, of course, preserve the beautiful period structures meticulously.


So, it was a pleasant surprise when a professor based in Bamberg Germany requested a French-style country house for his family.  He admitted that the Modern trend was getting to be a bore as pure function was just not appealing, to him at least.  He said that “most of the housing here consists of little white boxes.  Architects here have forgotten how to do classical buildings."  


Three months later I have produced a Schematic Design (see floor plans and front, side and rear elevations below)  from which a local architect will derive the construction drawings.  Their system is metric and I have dimensioned the house accordingly.

They use a system of perforated ceramic brick for the perimeter walls which is approximately one foot thick when finished on both sides.  The floors and ceilings are cast in place reinforced concrete.


The interesting thing to me was how much the family wanted sunlight to penetrate the house.  So many overcast days makes things a bit glum, and so skylights and a light well bring the warming sun from above. And like great cathedrals facing east/west large windows on the west especially (like the rose windows) allow as much light as possible to filter into the living spaces.  A skylight will bring light into the Master Bath as well.  In addition, the Breakfast area termed a 'conservatory' is lit from a glass roof over the bay window.

The house is on a sloping lot and a nice pool with cascading ponds is planned on the west side.  There will be a small walk out feature in the basement on the north side.  A sauna and exercise room was vital.  Otherwise, the typical layout and features of our luxury homes here are duplicated.

The decorative trim and moldings seen on the exterior will be provided by a Polish company which recreates these classic elements.  Heating only is required and will be supplied by hot water in pipes through radiant floors.  There will be no forced heated or cold air through ducting as is done here.  The main house is approximately 3,800 square feet of conditioned living space, not including the basement which will have a few rooms and apartment fitted later. 

The budget here is limited so the design could not be more elaborate.  No actual handwork will be possible and all moldings and decorative trim will be purchased 'off the shelf'.  We have similar companies in the United States and Canada that supply beautiful moldings, filigree, ironwork, plaster and synthetic decorative elements that allow most Period Style houses to be recreated and interiors to be resplendent.

A one-stop shop for period style accoutrements including columns and capitals, lighting, ornamentation, hardware, salvage and antiques, plumbing/bath, metalwork, mantels and fireplaces, roofing, woodwork and even tools is Traditional Building.

(Note: In Germany, the 'Ground Floor' is our First Floor, the 'First Floor' is our second floor.)

If you would like to see another overseas condo project built in Vietnam please click here.


Posted by

JOHN HENRY ARCHITECT  Orlando Florida Custom Home Designs

Beautiful European and American classical period luxury homes and plans created by premier residential Architect John Henry has been a passion now for over 30 years.  Inspired by old world archaeology and medieval to Renaissance architecture -- and having lived in Europe and the Middle East-- John Henry is widely known for the romantic and period details that make his work breathe a certain soul and drama. Striving for world-class results, his award-winning work reflects the details and proportions of luxury real estate plans in historical European and American traditional styles. Attention to detail and continuity mean that the architectural interiors should also be integrated properly.

Portfolio of Luxury Homes: https://www.dreamhomedesignusa.com/


Office on 7491 Conroy Road Orlando, Florida  32835

Tel: 407.421.6647

Email: johnhenryarchitect@gmail.com

YouTube Videos:    https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3c7Jnh5ggwNw0f3fME1joA

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Liz and Bill Spear
RE/MAX Elite 513.520.5305 www.LizTour.com - Mason, OH
RE/MAX Elite Warren County OH (Cincinnati/Dayton)

Thanks for the architectural history lesson!  Love the plans for the new home!

Feb 20, 2019 07:57 PM #1
Kat Palmiotti
Grand Lux Realty, Monroe NY, 914-419-0270, kat@thehousekat.com - Monroe, NY
The House Kat

Wow, that looks and sounds amazing. I love that the family wanted a lot of sunlight - I would have wanted that as well. And personally I find the "modern" look boring - I didn't realize where it came from and when. Very interesting.

And it's great that you design for foreign buildings as well. The world is yours!

Feb 21, 2019 03:44 AM #2
Nestor Gasset
International Properties and Investments LLC - Wellington, FL
Wellington Luxury homes & Equestrian Expert

Alway loved those unique homes! Thanks for the report. You put some work in this article. 

Feb 21, 2019 05:53 PM #3
Sally K. & David L. Hanson
EXP Realty 414-525-0563 - Brookfield, WI
WI Realtors - Luxury - Divorce

In a word...unique ..and cetainly educational !

Feb 22, 2019 01:44 AM #4
Barbara Todaro
RE/MAX Executive Realty - Franklin, MA
Marketing Agent for The Todaro Team

Good morning, John Henry thanks for the history lesson in architectural design... I say thank the God for modern architecture... the more glass and fewer walls, the better.... 

Feb 22, 2019 03:55 AM #5
Gwen Fowler-CRS- 864-638-3599 SC Mountains & Lakes--
Gwen Fowler Real Estate, Inc - Salem, SC
Gwen Fowler Real Estate, Inc.

Love architecture, things that make living in certain areas unique.  I also loved learning about heat with something other than forced air.  I went to school with radiators and hot water circulated through the floors.  I thought that was a thing of the past, but glad it is making a return.  Warm feet mean less time being sick in the winters.

Feb 22, 2019 05:38 AM #6
Lottie Kendall
Compass - San Francisco, CA
Helping make your real estate dreams a reality

That will be a fantastic house, John Henry, blending beautiful details with today's practicality. 

Feb 22, 2019 06:33 AM #7
John Dotson
Preferred Properties of Highlands, Inc. - Highlands, NC - Highlands, NC
The experience to get you to the other side!

John, a great post.

Over the years, I have been lucky enough to have the opportunity of traveling over much of Europe and enjoyed the architecture - much of it rebuilt after WWII to match it's pre-war existence.

The cold, stark structures here and in Europe cause me no pause, and in fact make me think of socialism and Russia and an attempt to make people believe the more modern the architecture, the more "enlightened" the society - a theory I find flawed from the onset.

Grand architecture has for millenniums been a way to uplift and bring a sense of place, purpose and "esprit de corps" to societies and individuals - no matter where they fell on the social rung.

While use almost always defines the architecture, I am sure most of us who sell residential real estate would admit "traditional" is far more attractive to most buyers than "modern."

BTW, what a great set of plans and elevations!

Feb 22, 2019 09:38 AM #8
John Henry
John Henry Masterworks Design International, Inc. - Orlando, FL
Residential Architect, Luxury Custom Home Design

Hi John Dotson  I agree with all you say here.  Totally.  

Another reason why Europeans are loathe to go back and mine classicism is that the last insane dictator there loved the fascist expression of the ancient monuments of Italy specifically.  They don't particularly want to be reminded of that.  Interestingly though, our nation's capital is full of similarly inspired buildings.  But obviously not at the grand scale intended for the new 4th Reich.

Thank you.

btw: here is a design for a Raleigh project (on hold right now).  

Feb 22, 2019 10:48 AM #13
Michael Jacobs
Pasadena, CA
Los Angeles Pasadena 818.516.4393

Hello John - I appreciate your writing style as much as I enjoy your architectural voice.  A pleasure.

Feb 24, 2019 10:27 AM #14
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